Introduction to Psychology
Bloom (Paul)
Source: Open Yale Courses, 2007
Paper - Abstract

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Course Introduction

  1. What do your dreams mean? Do men and women differ in the nature and intensity of their sexual desires? Can you trust the testimony of a young child? Can people repress terrible memories? Why are some people depressed? Can apes learn sign language? Why can't we tickle ourselves? Are humans inherently evil?
  2. This course tries to answer these questions, providing a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior. It explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction, and dreams.
  3. We will look at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired-up in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury.
  4. Texts:

Lecture List
  1. Introduction
  2. Foundations: This is Your Brain
  3. Foundations: Freud
  4. Foundations: Skinner
  5. What Is It Like to Be a Baby: The Development of Thought
  6. How Do We Communicate?: Language in the Brain, Mouth and the Hands
  7. Conscious of the Present; Conscious of the Past: Language (cont.); Vision and Memory
  8. Conscious of the Present; Conscious of the Past: Vision and Memory (cont.)
  9. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Love (Guest Lecture by Professor Peter Salovey)
  10. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Evolution and Rationality
  11. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Emotions, Part I
  12. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Emotions, Part II
  13. Brain and Perception: (Guest lecture by Professor Marvin Chun)
  14. Why Are People Different?: Differences
  15. What Motivates Us: Sex
  16. The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food: (Guest Lecture by Professor Kelly Brownell)
  17. A Person in the World of People: Morality
  18. A Person in the World of People: Self and Other, Part I
  19. A Person in the World of People: Self and Other, Part II; Some Mysteries: Sleep1, Dreams, and Laughter
  20. What Happens When Things Go Wrong: Mental Illness, Part I (Guest Lecture by Professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema)
  21. What Happens When Things Go Wrong: Mental Illness, Part II
  22. The Good Life: Happiness
  23. Final Exam

Lecture Abstracts and Associated Material
  1. Introduction:
    • Professor Paul Bloom welcomes students and presents the course as a comprehensive introduction to the study of the human mind. Course readings and requirements are discussed. The five main branches of psychology are presented: neuroscience, which is a study of the mind by looking at the brain; developmental, which focuses on how people grow and learn; cognitive, which refers to the computational approach to studying the mind; social, which studies how people interact; and clinical, which examines mental health and mental illnesses.
    • Reading assignment:
      "Gray (Peter) - Foundations for the Study of Psychology",
      "Stanovich (Keith) - How to Think Straight about Psychology (Extract)"
  2. Foundations: This is Your Brain:
  3. Foundations: Freud:
    • This lecture introduces students to the theories of Sigmund Freud, including a brief biographical description and his contributions to the field of psychology. The limitations of his theories of psychoanalysis are covered in detail, as well as the ways in which his conception of the unconscious mind still operate in mainstream psychology today.
    • Reading assignment:
      "Gray (Peter) - Personality", pp. 558-563,
      "Gray (Peter) - Treatment", pp. 632-637
      "Freud (Sigmund) - The Unconscious (Extract)".
  4. Foundations: Skinner:
    • Freud: Professor Bloom opens with a brief discussion of the value and evolutionary basis of unconscious processing. The rest of this lecture introduces students to the theory of Behaviorism, particularly the work of prominent behaviorist, B. F. Skinner. Different types of learning are discussed in detail, as well as reasons why behaviorism has been largely displaced as an adequate theory of human mental life.
    • Reading assignment:
      "Gray (Peter) - Personality", pp. 558-563,
      "Gray (Peter) - Treatment", pp. 632-637
      "Freud (Sigmund) - The Unconscious (Extract)".
  5. What Is It Like to Be a Baby: The Development of Thought: Freud:
  6. How Do We Communicate?: Language in the Brain, Mouth and the Hands: Freud:
  7. Conscious of the Present; Conscious of the Past: Language (cont.); Vision and Memory: Freud:
  8. Conscious of the Present; Conscious of the Past: Vision and Memory (cont.) : Freud:
  9. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Love (Guest Lecture by Professor Peter Salovey) : Freud:
    • Guest lecturer Peter Salovey (Professor of Psychology, and Dean of Yale College) introduces students to the dominant psychological theories of love and attraction. Specific topics include the different types of love, the circumstances that predict attraction, and the situations where people mistakenly attribute arousal for love.
    • Reading assignment:
      Gray, Peter. Psychology (5th edition), pp.456-458
  10. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Evolution and Rationality: Freud:
    • This lecture introduces students to the study of psychology from an evolutionary perspective, the idea that like the body, natural selection has shaped the development of the human mind. Prominent arguments for and against the theory of natural selection and its relationship to human psychology are reviewed. Students will hear several examples of how studying mental phenomenon from an evolutionary perspective can help constrain theories in psychology as well as explain many prevalent human instincts that underlie many of our most basic behaviors and decision.
    • Reading assignment:
      "Gray (Peter) - Genetic and Evolutionary Foundations of Behavior", pp. 61-68,
      "Gray (Peter) - Reasoning and Intelligence", 345-351,
      "Pinker (Steven) - How the Mind Works (Extract)".
  11. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Emotions, Part I: Freud:
  12. Evolution, Emotion, and Reason: Emotions, Part II: Freud:
  13. Brain and Perception: (Guest Lecture by Professor Marvin Chun) : Freud:
    • This lecture provided an overview of brain function, using the specific example of how people recognize and discriminate faces. In addition to a basic summary of neuronal function and brain organization, we discussed the different methods that scientists use to elucidate brain function. These methods include psychophysics, single-cell electrophysiology, functional brain imaging, and neuropsychology. Using these methods, scientists have discovered that the brain contains special mechanisms dedicated to face processing. Damage to these brain regions causes face blindness.
  14. Why Are People Different?: Differences: Freud:
  15. What Motivates Us: Sex: Freud:
  16. The Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food: (Guest Lecture by Professor Kelly Brownell) : Freud:
    • This lecture covers the reasons people eat what they do, the benefits and disadvantages of modern food and agriculture approaches, and what might be done to improve diet in the U.S. and around the world. Several areas of emphasis are economic factors that drive food choices, how biology intersects with food marketing practices, and how the food industry figures in this picture. Novel approaches to changing nutrition through legislation and legal approaches is a key area of focus.
    • Reading assignment:
      … Brownell. K.D., and Yach, D. "The Battle of the Bulge." Foreign Policy (November/December 2005). pp. 26-27
      … Brownell, K.D., and Willett, W.C. "Choose to Remove Trans Fats (OpEd)." San Francisco Chronicle (October 18, 2006). pp. B8
      … Yach, D, Stuckler, D., and Brownell, K.D. "Epidemiologic and Economic Consequences of the Global Epidemics of Obesity and Diabetes." Nature Medicine, 12 (2006). pp. 62-66
      … Brownell, K.D., and Nestle, M. "The Sweet and Lowdown on Sugar (OpEd)." New York Times (January 23, 2004). pp. A23
  17. A Person in the World of People: Morality: Freud:
  18. A Person in the World of People: Self and Other, Part I: Freud:
    • This is the first of two lectures on social psychology, the study of how we think about ourselves, other people, and social groups. Students will hear about the famous "six degrees of separation" phenomenon and how it illuminates important individual differences in social connectedness. This lecture also reviews a number of important biases that greatly influence how we think of ourselves as well as other people.
    • Reading assignment:
      "Gray (Peter) - Social Perception and Attitudes".
  19. A Person in the World of People: Self and Other, Part II; Some Mysteries: Sleep2, Dreams, and Laughter: Freud:
    • This lecture begins with the second half of the discussion on social psychology. Students will learn about several important factors influencing how we form impressions of others, including our ability to form rapid impressions about people. This discussion focuses heavily upon stereotypes, including a discussion of their utility, reliability, and the negative effects that even implicit stereotypes can incur. The second half of the lecture introduces students to two prominent mysteries in the field of psychology. First, students will learn what is known and unknown about sleep3, including why we sleep4, the different types of sleep5, disorders, and of course, dreams, what they're about and why we have them. Second, this half reviews how laughter remains a mysterious and interesting psychological phenomenon. Students will hear theories that attempt to explain what causes us to laugh and why, with a particular emphasis on current evolutionary theory.
    • Reading assignment:
      "Gray (Peter) - Mental Disorders".
  20. What Happens When Things Go Wrong: Mental Illness, Part I (Guest Lecture by Professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema) : Freud:
  21. What Happens When Things Go Wrong: Mental Illness, Part II: Freud:
  22. The Good Life: Happiness: Freud:

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